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ANGLO-FRENCH COMMERCIAL RIVALRY, 1700-1750: 
THE WESTERN PHASE, I. 1 

The rivalry between England and France is perhaps the most 
conspicuous feature of eighteenth-century history from 1700 to 1763. 
The part that commercial competition played in accentuating that 
rivalry, though readily understood, has received inadequate treat- 
ment at the hands of the historians. Much still remains obscure and 
many important relations still remain untraced, but enough stands 
clearly before us to render comprehensible the main features of the 
situation. 

In the contest for colonial and commercial control of the New 
World, which began at the close of the fifteenth century, a move- 
ment was ushered in which has no parallel in history until the 
present day. Portugal and Spain, the first of the European states to 
enter the field of exploration, were spared the cut-throat rivalry of 
later times by the papal line of demarcation, and each power be- 
came a monopolist in its assigned portion of the world. But the 
ascendancy of these states was short-lived, owing to the limitations 
of their colonial interests, for Spain from the beginning and Portu- 
gal for a considerable period, though to a lesser degree, acted as gold 
and silver supplying countries, and pushed their cult of the metals 
to such an extreme as to become in large part minor competitors in 
the rivalry of later times. Though each remained a factor to be 
reckoned with, even after 1700 when the great age of the West 
Indies began, yet each was already on its decline and its attitude 
was largely defensive as far as the other powers were concerned. 

As compared with the Dutch, the Spaniards and Portuguese were 
but pawns in the great contest. By the beginning of the sixteenth 
century, Hollanders and Zeelanders were controlling the carrying 
trade between the Mediterranean and the Baltic and were already 
encroaching on the coastwise traffic of the Iberian Peninsula. With 
the turn of the century, during the course of the war with Spain, 

1 This paper, which in briefer form was read before the International Con- 
gress of Historical Studies at London in April, 1913, is based in large part on 
the writings of the eighteenth-century mercantilist pamphleteers, and designedly 
so. My object has been not so much to discover what the actual conditions were, 
as to understand what contemporary writers thought they were. Final conclu- 
sions on the general subject must await, of course, a thorough investigation of 
other classes of material, chiefly documentary, in England, France, and America. 

( 539 ) 



540 C. M. Andrews 

to which Portugal was at that time annexed, they pushed their way 
into the far East, ousting the Portuguese from their seats in the In- 
dies and seizing all Portuguese commerce in those parts. In 1623 
they began the attack on the Spanish plate-fleets, obtained control 
of the most important places held by the Portuguese in Guinea, and, 
though unable to maintain a hold on the Lower Amazon, succeeded 
in dispossessing the Portuguese of six of their fourteen coast prov- 
inces in Brazil, establishing their capital at Recife (Pernambuco). 2 
With the attainment of unity and independence, the states of the 
Dutch Republic started on a career of commercial activity that car- 
ried their ships into all quarters of the globe, and for a century and a 
half their vessels came and went as agents of demand and supply, 
distributing the staples of the world-market and acting as purveyors 
and middlemen of the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. 
From 1600 to 1675 the Dutch were at the height of their commercial 
supremacy, and their vessels were in every port searching for oppor- 
tunities of traffic. The early French colonies in the West Indies de- 
pended on the Dutch ships for their very existence, 8 and the British 
colonies as well deemed the Dutch carrying trade essential to their 
own prosperity. 4 The Dutch vessels carried fish from the British 
Seas, tobacco from the American continent, and sugar, tobacco, 
and other tropical products from the West Indies, and exchanged 
them for food stuffs and manufactured goods from France, Spain, 
Portugal, and the Straits, and from the East Countries, Germany, 
and Brabant. 5 East and west, north and south, sometimes in ports 
of their own making, but more often in the ports of colonies founded 
by other nations, Dutch merchants and traders, sea-captains and 
masters bartered and sold their ladings for goods or ready money, and 
returned with well-filled vessels, either directly to other countries or 
to their own harbors, notably Amsterdam, where the staples of 
America, Africa, and the Orient were worked up into manufactured 
articles or increased in value by refining or distilling and then re- 
exported and sold to their European neighbors. The Dutch never 

2 Huet, Memoirs of the Dutch Trade (transl., 1722) ; Campbell, Candid and 
Impartial Considerations on the Nature of the Sugar Trade (1763), pp. 14-16; 
Edmundson, English Historical Review, "Dutch Power in Brazil", XI. 231, XIV. 
676, "The Dutch in the Amazon", XVIII. 642, XIX. 1. 

3 Mims, Colbert's West India Policy, pp. 2, 3, 19-20. John Scott says that before 
1652, when the navigation act of 1651 debarred them from the trade, the Dutch, 
" by the great credit which they had given the planters in Barbadoes, had brought 
that island to its utmost perfection ". " Description of Barbadoes ", British 
Museum, Sloane 3662, ff. 62-50 (reversed). 

4 Beer, The Origins of the British Colonial System, pp. 356-358. 

5 A Collection of Advertisements, Advices, and Directions relating to the 
Royal Fishery within the British Seas (1695), pp. 22-23. 



Anglo-French Commercial Rivalry, ijoo—1750 541 

became effective colonists because the trade motive was always up- 
permost in their minds, but they won their great success by adhering 
to " the simple and plain maxim that those who can sell the best com- 
modity cheapest will always command the market "." In an era of 
colonial beginnings the Dutch were as indispensable to the world's 
progress as are the great distributing agents of the present day. 

England and France, without a merchant marine at this stage 
of their maritime development, viewed with alarm the maritime 
ascendancy of the Dutch and saw with indignation the mastery that 
the latter had obtained over the commercial concerns of their col- 
onies. But before 1650 neither country had attained that condition 
of internal peace which rendered successful competition possible. 
They could do little with a people whose business organization was 
so complete and whose trading instinct was so highly developed that 
it could underbid competitors both in prices and in freight-rates, and 
could meet the demands of its customers in the variety and abun- 
dance of the goods offered better than any other nation in the world. 
Competition with the Dutch was bound to result in failure. A 
matching of wits in the field of business enterprise and shrewdness 
was a game that neither French nor English merchants were pre- 
pared to engage in with any hope of success. Whenever they tried 
it the results were inglorious, as in the case of the whale fishery, 
from which the whalers of England and New England were never 
able to drive their Dutch rivals, 7 and of the herring fishery, "the 
greatest trade and the best gold mine belonging to the United Prov- 
inces ", 8 in which the Dutch were supreme well on into the eighteenth 
century, despite long and searching inquiry on England's part into 
the causes of their superiority, and frequent attempts to emulate 
their methods and policy. 9 There was no chance of success in open 

6 Campbell, Candid and Impartial Consideration, p. 19. See Decker, An 
Essay, on the Causes of the Decline of the Foreign Trade (second ed., 1750), pp. 
18, 104, and Sir William Temple, Observations upon the United Provinces of the 
Netherlands (eighth ed., 1747). 

7 On the whale fishery see Otis Little, The State of the Trade of the 
Northern Colonies Considered (1748), p. 17. Sir Francis Brewster, writing in 
1 702, said, " The Dutch and Hamburghers, not to name the French, Imploy near 
Twenty Thousand Men in the Greenland-fishing, and we not One." New Essays 
on Trade (1702), p. 6. 

8 This sentence is taken from a proclamation of the States General, dated 
July 19, 1624. 

» In 1663 the Council of Trade considered at one of its meetings how best 
to gain and improve the fishery trade, and in the course of the debate made a 
careful inquiry into the reasons for the success of the Dutch. Andrews, Com- 
mittees, Commissions, and Councils, pp. 82-84. Contemporary pamphlet litera- 
ture contains frequent reference to Dutch methods and success. See, for example, 
William de Britaine, The Dutch Usurpation (1672), pp. 30-31; Petyt, Britania 



542 C. M. Andrews 

rivalry, for in a trade free to all nations, the Dutch were able to hold 
their own before the world. 

Hence the only alternative was deliberate war. The Dutch must 
be driven from the field by force. Partly as a cause and partly as a 
consequence of this necessity, there were gradually shaped in the 
minds of those engaged in the economic upbuilding of the maritime 
states of the period certain ideas regarding the utility of colonies, 
never very well defined, but based on the principle that outlying 
possessions were of value only as far as their resources reinforced 
the strength of the mother state and aided in the promotion of her 
material welfare. 10 Experience soon 1 tended to crystallize these ideas 
and to bring into prominence three commercial factors: the mother- 
country; the colonies with their tropical products; and certain sup- 
plemental areas of supply, such as Africa with its slaves and the 
temperate zone colonies with their provisions, live stock, and lumber, 
all of which were essential to the prosperity of the parent state, 
in furnishing the resources needed to meet the inevitable conflict 
with other European powers. The conflict was inevitable because to 
the mercantilist the ascendancy of one state was gained at the ex- 

Languens (1680), pp. 167-168; Withers, The Dutch better Friends than the 
French (1713), which contains answers to nine charges against the Dutch as 
rivals in trade; and Wood, Survey of Trade (1718), pp. 100-101. The fullest 
contemporary survey of English and Dutch rivalry in the fishery is A Collection 
of Advertisements, Advices, and Directions (1695), which endeavors to show why 
the English fishery was unprofitable and the Dutch successful. For the general 
subject see Elder, The Royal Fishery Company of the Seventeenth Century. 
A frequent topic of discussion in English naval and fishery circles was the Dutch 
encroachment on the British sovereignty of the seas and their supplanting " by 
artifice the trade and traffic of the king's subjects". Arguments were constantly 
presented to prove " the King's exclusive propriety of dominion in the seas coast- 
ing on his Kingdom both as to passage and fishing therein". Tanner, A Descrip- 
tive Catalogue of the Library of Samuel Pepys, I., Sea Manuscripts, pp. 58-59. 
Fuller, The Sovereignty of the Sea (1911), presents in an admirable and authori- 
tative manner an exposition of this subject. He shows that the claim was a 
doctrine of the Stuarts, " introduced from Scotland to England with that dynasty, 
and terminating with it", and that it was aimed particularly against the Dutch. 
The boundaries of the British Seas are given on pages 521-522 of his work. 

10 Campbell, writing of the islands ceded by the treaty of 1763, in his Candid 
and Impartial Considerations, pp. 203-204, states the case as follows : " To explain 
the true value, and to ascertain the real importance of those islands, that are 
now become ours. This can be only done, by contemplating them in different 
lights, that is, in those several and separate points of view, from which they may 
every one of them become more or less, immediately or remotely, directly or in- 
directly, assisting to the interests, increasing the power, augmenting the com- 
merce, extending the navigation, and thereby promoting the welfare of Great 
Britain ; or, in other words, conducing to the industry, the independency, and the 
happiness, of their fellow citizens and fellow subjects, who are the inhabitants 
of this their Mother Country. These are the great ends, these the ultimate de- 
sign of Colonies." 



Anglo-French Commercial Rivalry, 1700-1750 543 

pense of the others, either by an enlargement of the sources of the 
wealth of the state or by the destruction of the sources of a rival's 
wealth. Trade and conquest went together. 11 As in the seven- 
teenth century the English and French were the chief colonizing 
powers, their success could be won only by driving the Dutch from 
the established position which the latter had won as traffickers in the 
world's market. 

England was the first to begin the attack. As early as 1621, an 
order in Council forbade the colonists of Virginia to permit strangers 
to trade with them and required them to ship their tobacco directly 
to England. This order was repeated several times between 162 1 
and 1634. Then came the navigation act of 1651, prohibiting every 
nation to bring into England any goods or merchandise but what 
were of their own growth or manufacture ; three wars between 1652 
and 1674; the wider navigation acts of 1660, 1663, and 1672; the 
seizure of New Netherland in America in 1664 ; the various struggles 
for control in the East and along the Guinea Coast, all of which show 
that England and Holland were engaged in a bitter commercial war, 

11 This idea underlay at all times the reasoning of the mercantilist pamphlet- 
eers. Citations from five of them will suffice : 

" We should consider, that our Navigation can neither be kept or enlarged 
by the same Methods it had its former growth ; we had then no Competitors, 
but we have now so many and powerful, that we may reasonably fear a time 
when our Navigation must be managed, as the Jews Built the Walls of Jerusalem, 
one hand in the Work, and the other to hold a Weapon." Brewster, New Essays 
on Trade (1702), preface. 

" Let us learn to consider our Sugar Colonies as engaged in a mortal combat 
with those of Foreign Nations, in which either they or we, according to all 
human probability, must fall." Caribbeana (1741), I. 195. 

" Ruining the trade of our adversaries and thereby raising our own." The 
State of the Nation Considered (1747), p. 10. 

" As every state in Europe seems desirous of increasing its Trade, and the 
Acquisition of Wealth enlarges the Means of power, it is necessary, in order to 
preserve an Equality with them, that this Kingdom extends its Commerce in 
proportion; but to acquire a Superiority, due Encouragement ought to be given 
to such of its Branches, as will most effectually enrich its Inhabitants. As trade 
enables the Subject to support the Administration of Government, the lessening 
or destroying that of a Rival, has the same effect, as if this Kingdom had en- 
larged the Sources of its own Wealth; it is evident from hence, that it is not 
sufficient to support the Credit of a Country with its Neighbours, that its Com- 
merce be enlarged only, unless its Increase be proportionate to theirs. But, as 
an Ascendency is to be gained by checking the Growth of theirs, as well as by 
the Increase of our own, whenever one of these happens to be the Consequence 
of the other to this Nation, its Figure and Reputation will rise to a greater 
Height than ever." Otis Little, The State of the Trade of the Northern Colonies 
Considered (1748), pp. 8-9. 

The French now endeavor " to obstruct the English Commerce in all Parts 
of the World, as by that means they will not only increase their own Power and 
Influence, but in proportion weaken ours ". Wisdom and Policy of the French 
(i755), P- 125- 



544 £"• M. Andrews 

and that England was endeavoring to break the commercial net that 
the Dutch had woven about her and her colonies. France began the 
attack with the rise of Colbert. Cayenne was captured in 1664. 
A high protective tariff of the same year was continued by new 
duties imposed on foreign manufactures in 1667. These duties, 
which were abolished in 1668 owing to Dutch retaliation but re- 
established after Colbert's death in 1683, led to trade quarrels which 
preceded and in large part caused the wars between France and Hol- 
land at the end of the century. During this period decrees were 
issued forbidding the governors of Guadeloupe, Martinique, and 
other French West India islands, to receive and trade with the Dutch 
vessels, and a new West India Company was granted its monopoly 
for the express purpose of undermining the Dutch trade. Con- 
stant iteration of commands to colonial governors, the conviction 
and punishment of offenders, and successful efforts to drive out 
foreigners found cruising in the waters of the French West Indies 
had their effect and Dutch trade decreased. 12 The French merchant 
marine grew in size and strength. The founding of the Senegal 
Company in 1672 ended in the capture from the Dutch of the island 
of Goree and of Arguin five years later, and led to the establishment 
of French control over the African trade from Cape Blanco to the 
Gambia River. Similarly the incorporation of the English Royal 
African Company in 1672 and the royal confirmation of s its monopoly 
from Sallee to the Cape of Good Hope added a fourth to the com- 
petitors for the African trade, 13 and was followed by many years of 
rival trading in West Africa, in which Dutch, English, French, and 
Portuguese all had a part. Already had the Portuguese, freed at 
last from the domination of Spain in 1640, recovered control of their 
possessions in Brazil, and this loss to the Dutch was only in part 
met by the English restoration of Surinam in the treaty of Breda of 
1667. 

But the Dutch fought hard for the retention of their monopoly. 
In this effort they were aided by the French and English colonies 
themselves, which having experienced the advantages of an open 
market submitted unwillingly to the enforcement of laws that 

i2Mims, Colbert's West India Policy, chs. VIII. and IX.; An Inquiry into 
the Revenue, Credit and Commerce of France (1742), pp. 24-26. 

is " Account of the Limits and Trade of the Royal African Company ", Cal. 
St. P., Col., 1669-1674, § 936. This account, undated but belonging to the period 
between 1672 and 1697, tells us that the slaves obtained by the company were 
sent to the American plantations, " which cannot subsist without them ", but that 
all other commodities were carried to England. This statement is an early 
recognition of the importance of Africa as a supplemental area of supply for the 
tropical British Colonies. 



Anglo-French Commercial Rivalry, 1700-1750 545 

seemed to sacrifice their prosperity to that of the mother-country. 14 
Both in Guadeloupe and in Martinique, the planters were unfriendly 
and even hostile to the French West India Company, because it failed 
to meet their needs as the Dutch had done and in its business dealings 
was much less efficient than the Dutch had been. 15 In Barbadoes 
and the Leeward Islands the British navigation acts aroused strong 
opposition, and in Barbadoes, at least, the complaint was heard that 
the English merchant was less liberal than the Dutch, and the Royal 
African Company less satisfactory than the Dutch slave-traders. 
Even in the seventeenth century the Barbadoes planters insisted that 
the sugar trade was much burdened by being confined to one market, 
and in the next century the enumeration of sugar was the subject of 
constant complaint. 16 Despite the navigation acts and other instru- 
ments of commercial warfare, the Dutch were far from despoiled of 
their traffic. They continued to lead in the whale and herring fish- 
eries in the waters of the North Atlantic and the North Sea ; they 
remained the greatest traders along the Guinea Coast and a thorn in 
the flesh of the Royal African Company ; and after the African trade 
was thrown open in 1697, they competed successfully with the com- 
pany and with private British traders through half the eighteenth 
century. 17 They held important positions in the West Indies and 
continued to be sugar carriers throughout our colonial period, and 
they dominated the route to the East and controlled the Spice Islands 
for many years after the colonies had won their independence. Both 
Dalby Thomas and Sir Josiah Child speak of the menace of Dutch 
rivalry, and as late as 1739, Sir Matthew Decker can call the Dutch 
" our great rivals in trade ", referring chiefly to trade with the 
European continent. 18 

" Mr. Beer says, " It cannot be questioned that the laws of trade were re- 
tarding the economic development of these [the Leeward] islands." The Old 
Colonial System, pt. I., vol. II., pp. 33, 45. 

is Mims, Colbert's West India Policy, pp. 90-99, 101-106, 108, 179. 

1° Littleton, in The Groans of the Plantations (1689), a very pessimistic and 
highly exaggerated presentation of the condition of things in Barbadoes, enu- 
merates seven burdens on the sugar trade at that time : the four and a half per 
cent, export duty, " extorted from us against our wills " ; customs duties at home ; 
the act of 1672, preventing export to the other British plantations; the enumera- 
tion of 1660; the act of 1663; the monopoly of the negro trade granted to the 
Royal African Company; and the added duties on sugar imported into England 
after 1685. 

1 7 Houston, Some New and Accurate Observations of the Coast of Guinea 
(1725), PP. 18-19; Atkins, A Voyage to Guinea, Brasil, and the West Indies 
(i73S), PP. M9-i86. 

18 Decker, Essay on the Causes of the Decline of the Foreign Trade (1744), 
p. 20. This work, begun in 1739, is full of references to the superiority of the 
Dutch. Contemporary opinion regarding the effectiveness of the Dutch rivalry 
can be inferred from the fact that in 1713 John Withers found it necessary to 



546 C. M. Andrews 

But the Dutch trade, though strongly entrenched, was gradually 
broken as far as America and the West Indian colonies were con- 
cerned. At the close of the seventeenth century France and Eng- 
land, the greatest states of the European world, after persistent 
efforts for forty years, had deprived the Dutch of their maritime 
and commercial supremacy. They now stood face to face, two 
powers actuated by like commercial and colonizing aims. Neither 
Portugal, Spain, nor Holland had sought for colonial power in the 
mercantilist sense of the term, for the discovery of mines early 
diverted in a measure the attention of the Portuguese, the Spaniards 
were ambitious for gold and conquest, and the Dutch had few terri- 
torial and colonizing designs. France and England were fairly 
matched rivals, in that their policies were the same, to acquire 
colonies in the interest of trade, shipping, and manufactures, to 
exclude the foreigner from the colonial market, and to make the 
welfare and wealth of the mother state the first and chief object of 
the efforts of all, colonies and mother-country alike. 

The two great antagonists faced each other in five different parts 
of the world, India, Africa, the West Indies, Canada, and the 
Mississippi ; and as far as the Atlantic Basin was concerned they 
wrestled and fought for the control of four groups of economic 
commodities: negroes; sugar, tobacco, indigo, and other tropical 
and semi-tropical products, among which sugar was by far the most 
important ; fish ; furs and naval stores. In each of these particulars 
the growth of French trade and colonization after 1700 seemed to 
threaten the supremacy of England, and during the years before 
1750 intensified the rivalry of the two powers until that rivalry 
culminated in armed conflict in the years from 1756 to 1763. The 
struggle took place in the East as well as the West, but it is to the 
latter phase that I would direct attention here. 

The struggle for the control of the fisheries is as old as the 
settlement of the colonies, and has in diminished form survived 
until very recent times. Even in 1670 the English complained that 
" the French in their seamen and shipping by their fishery do much 
increase ", 19 and a few years later Petyt in Britania Languens could 
assert that the Iceland fishing was very much decayed and the New- 

write a letter " from a Citizen to a Country Gentleman ", entitled The Dutch 
better Friends than the French, in which he argued against a prevailing British 
opinion that the Dutch were " rivals with us in our trade, and undermine us in 
our commerce; and that if these Froglanders were once crushed, the trade of 
the world would be our own ", pp. 33-34. He endeavored to show that in 
reality the French were England's great rivals and the Dutch England's friends. 
See above, note 9. 

10 Ca/. St. P., Col, 1 669-1 674, § 362, 1. 



Anglo-French Commercial Rivalry, iyoo— 1750 547 

f oundland fishing and Greenland fishing quite lost, the Dutch having 
driven the English out of these trades and the French of later years 
having "struck into a good share of the whole, beating out the 
English more and more ". 20 " At this time ", says Mr. Beer, " the 
French were rapidly acquiring an unquestionable superiority. They 
made more and better cured fish and arrived earlier at the Euro- 
pean markets." 21 The New Englanders resented the various surren- 
ders of Nova Scotia to France as parting with a noble fishery and as 
an execrable treachery to the best interests of all, 22 and they wel- 
comed with high approval the conquest of that country in 1710, as 
a check to the growing superiority of the French, who before 1700 
were threatening to drive the English out of the Continental fish 
market. 23 In 1731 a well-informed writer, commenting on the 
Newfoundland fishery, could speak of the French as "our most 
prejudicial rivals in the fishery of those parts ". 2 * 

In the minds of the merchants and colonists of the early eigh- 
teenth century fish and furs were classed together, with lumber and 
the mast trade holding a place of scarcely inferior importance. The 
enumeration of naval stores in 1706 and of beaver and other furs 
in 1722 was in part an effort to keep those valuable staples out of 
the hands of the French, and Cadwallader Colden, in his essays on 
the Indian trade, 25 devoted considerable space to a discussion of the 
relative strength of the English and French in their control over 
the traffic in furs. As early as 1729 the merchants complained that 
the French were underselling the English in foreign beaver 
markets. 28 No one saw more clearly the nature of the struggle 
than did Governor Shirley of Massachusetts, and in his correspond- 
ence from 1741 to 1756 we find special stress laid on the economic 
significance of the contest for Canada. He viewed the capture of 
Louisburg in 1745 and the projected Canadian expedition of the 
next year not in terms of conquest but of codfish and peltry, and 
he deemed the great merit of his own services to the British crown 

20 Petyt, Britania Languens or a Discourse of Trade (1680), pp. 167-169. 

21 The Old Colonial System, pt. I., vol. II., pp. 227-228. 

22 Cal. St. P., Col., 1669-1674, §68, 1697-1699, §82, 1699, §§247, 746, vii. 

23 After the Restoration, says Mr. Beer, " the English were entirely driven 
out of the French market and had difficulty in maintaining themselves in Por- 
tugal, Spain, and Italy". The Old Colonial System, pt. I., vol. II., p. 227. 

1* A Short Answer to an Elaborate Pamphlet (1731), p. 17. Postlethwayt 
could say in 1750 that the French had a larger number of vessels than the English 
in the fishery, and were able to supply themselves with what they formerly had 
from English ships and also parts of Spain and Italy. Their fishery ascendancy 
covered cod from Newfoundland, herring from the North Sea, and whales from 
northern waters. Short State, pp. 81-end. 

25 AT. Y. Col. Docs., V. 726-733. 

20 Acts of the Privy Council, Colonial, VI. 207; cf. vol. III., § 165. 



548 C. M. Andrews 

to lie in his having saved the English codfishery more than once 
from falling into the hands of the French. 27 When he urged upon 
the British government the conquest of Canada, he emphasized its 
importance as throwing the whole fur-trade into British hands, as 
breaking up the French fishery settlements in the gulf and river of 
St. Lawrence, and as turning the great profits and advantages of 
the fishery, with its demand for rum and clothing and its value as 
a nursery for seamen, over to the subjects of Great Britain. 28 He 
viewed the French encroachments on Maine and New Hampshire 
as an interference with the mast trade, because from that frontier 
the royal navy drew its supply of masts and yards, and he looked 
on the struggle for the Mohawk Valley as a contest for the beaver 
trade, the diminution of which provoked war with the French in 
Canada. 29 He showed himself a mercantilist when he saw that in 
the struggle with France the success of England's commercial policy 
was at stake. Should England drive France from America, he 
said, " the profits of the whole trade of these colonies will all finally 
center in her, her navigation will be greatly increased, and the 
balance of her growing trade with North America will forever be 
in her favor; and what seems to make these advantages still more 
valuable is that they weaken the power of France whilst they add 
to that of Great Britain. 30 But Shirley's warnings were not heeded. 
English eyes were fixed on the tropics and the sugar trade, and 
Louisburg was given back to France in 1748. 31 France maintained 
her leadership in the western fisheries, and both in Canada and 
the Mississippi Valley, from the Illinois Country to the Gulf, ex- 
tended the area of her fur-trade, that valuable trade in the skins 
of the lynx, muskrat, otter, beaver, and other furred denizens of the 
wilderness, which played so important a part in the colonial activity 
of the time. 

Much more serious from the standpoint of the mercantilist was 
the rivalry of England and France in Africa and the West Indies, 
for there lay the traffic in slaves and the seat of the sugar trade. 

27 Correspondence of William Shirley (ed. Lincoln), I. 162, 163, 243 ; II. 1-2. 
wlbid., I. 284-285. 

29 Ibid., I. 328, 348, 351, 452; II. 45, 59-60, 149, 180, 292-293. 

30 Ibid., I. 285. 

si The author of The State of the Nation Considered (1747), in speaking of 
the war of 1 745-1 746, says that the object was "the destruction of the French 
trade and shipping" and that as the result of the capture of Louisburg the fur- 
trade was lost to the French " totally on Canada side ", there remaining " only 
their trade to the West Indies and the Mississippi ", which, he adds, " we must 
be guilty of the highest negligence imaginable to suffer them to carry on another 
summer", pp. 4-5, 36-37. To this writer, who in 1747 criticized the conduct 
of the war because the " genius of Britain droop't ", the surrender of Louisburg 
must have seemed a terrible mistake. 



Anglo-French Commercial Rivalry, 1700-1730 549 

For the French, the production of sugar centred in Guadeloupe, 
Martinique, and Santo Domingo ; for the English, first in Surinam, 
and then in Barbadoes, the Leeward Islands, and Jamaica. Though 
Barbadoes began with indigo, ginger, cotton, and tobacco, the 
planters there soon turned their attention to sugar, and even 
Jamaica, which had at first made promising experiments with cocoa, 
discouraged by disasters that injured the trees, yielded to the de- 
mands of the British housewife and coffee-houses, and made sugar 
her leading commodity. Before the beginning of the British sugar 
industry in the West Indies, 32 the Portuguese had supplied Euro- 
pean countries with sugars from Brazil, but soon after the Restora- 
tion England had supplanted the Portuguese and the Dutch and was 
carrying muscovado in her own ships to the British Isles and the 
northern British colonies, and re-exporting large quantities to the 
Continent, particularly to Holland and Hamburg. France, though 
supplying her own market after 1670, partly because of her system 
of preferential duties, exported but little until the end of the cen- 
tury. 33 Thus England seemed in a fair way to monopolize the 
market outside of France. 

Complaints against the French began to be heard as early as 
1666, due to the increased output of the French colonies and to the 
virtually prohibitive duty that France had imposed on English sugars 
in order to shut English exporters out of the French market. 34 But 
the first hint of serious competition came in 1701, when Governor 
Codrington of the Leeward Islands wrote from Antigua that the 
French were beginning to tread on England's heels in the sugar 
trade, 35 and he recommended an act of Parliament prohibiting 
entirely all exports of beef, provisions, and lumber from Ireland 

32 The date of the introduction of sugar planting into Barbadoes is uncer- 
tain. "About 1626" ("On the Sugar Trade", Caribbeana, II. 33) is too early; 
" After the Restoration " (Campbell, Candid and Impartial Considerations, p. 9) 
is too late. Ligon speaks of sugar as a staple in 1647, and Winthrop, having 
mentioned only cotton as a staple from Barbadoes in 1643, adds in 1646 sugar, 
tobacco, and indigo {Journal, Original Narratives ed., II. 122, 328). These state- 
ments agree with that of Scott (" Description of Barbadoes ", Brit. Mus., Sloane 
3662). "The sugar cane was brought to Barbadoes first by one Pieter Brower of 
North Holland from Brazil Anno 1637, but came to no considerable perfection till 
the year 1645." There seems to be no good reason for doubting the truth of what 
Scott says, though his reputation for veracity is not high and he wrote his his- 
tory thirty years after the first date mentioned. 

33 Colbert wrote to Governor de Baas October 10, 1670, " Foreigners no 
longer bring us sugar. We have begun since six weeks or two months to export 
it to them." Mims, Colbert's West India Policy, p. 207. 

34 France while levying a duty of but four livres on sugar from her own 
colonies, placed one of thirty-two livres on that from the foreign sugar islands. 
Cal. St. P., Col., 1660-1674, p. 215. 

35 Ibid., 1701, p. 417. 



550 C. M. Andrews 

and the northern British colonies to the French islands. Between 
1701 and 1725 the advance was so rapid that, according to Joshua 
Gee, the French were not only supplying France, but were under- 
selling the British in the Continental market, notably at Hamburg, 
in Flanders, Holland, and Spain, and at the Straits, with Portugal, 
furnished the Levant with sugar from Brazil. 36 

As this ominous situation began to dawn upon the British 
planters, a vigorous discussion arose, in which the pamphleteers en- 
deavored to discover the cause of French success and British 
failure. 37 They ascribed the former to the preponderance of France 
in Europe since 1672, particularly during the period of absolutism 
under Louis XIV. ; to the more highly organized system of colonial 
and commercial control whereby the mother-country and the colonies 
were bound closely together, working in harmony and with des- 
patch; 38 and finally to state aid, judiciously furnished, to wise 
measures concerning trade and navigation, and to a more liberal 

36 Gee, The Trade and Navigation of Great Britain Considered (third ed., 

1731). PP- 44-45- 

37 Gee, pp. 137-139, 142-144, 150-151. The subject was a matter of constant 
discussion from this time on. See The Present State of the British Sugar 
Colonies Considered (1731), p. 8 et seq.; The National Merchant (1736), pp. 
85-107; Postlethwayt, Great Britain's True System (1757), pp. 246-268; and 
especially The Present State of the British and French Trade to Africa and 
America considered and compared, with some Propositions in Favour of the 
Trade of Great Britain (1745). 

as Frequent reference is made to the French Council of Commerce estab- 
lished by royal decree, June 29, 1700. The council is described in The Wisdom 
and Policy of the French (1755), pp. 38-73; and in Postlethwayt, Great Britain's 
True System, pp. 246-248. The writer of the former pamphlet likens the council 
to a " piece of clockwork, which by its springs directs the wheels in their mo- 
tion ". He thinks that the plan of it was borrowed from that of the Board of 
Trade of 1696, but with this difference " that the French have steadily adhered 
to the rules and institutions of the board ", while the English have not done so, 
" which has been the root and cause of many evils, both as it relates to His 
Majesty's subjects in America and to the Trade and Commerce of the English 
Nation ". He thinks, further, that French superiority lay not in the greater 
ability of the French statesmen or in a warmer zeal or greater application to 
the service of the country, but in " the mutual Relation and Subordination of 
their Boards" (pp. 129-130). He adds, "if England was to commence a War 
against France, in support of her Trade and Colonies, what could be hoped from 
it, unless we first correct the Abuses, which have through time crept into the 
Offices" (p. 128). The early mercantilists criticized the appointment of the 
Board of Trade by the crown, and declared that it should have been made de- 
pendent on the House of Commons. " Why a Council of Trade was taken out of 
the Hands of the Parliament, when they were upon it ", writes Brewster, " they 
can best tell that advised it." These men thought that only merchants should 
be members of the board, on the ground that " none are so proper to advise in 
Trade, as they that are bred in it". Brewster, New Essays on Trade (1702), pp. 
55. 63. The French royal council was continued by decrees of June 22, 1722, and 
May 29, 1730. 



Anglo-French Commercial Rivalry, 1 700-1750 551 

policy in respect of customs and drawbacks than prevailed in Eng- 
land. 30 Over against these advantages they placed the heavy 
burdens that lay upon the British sugar planters. Chief among 
these was the enumeration of sugar, according to which sugar could 
not be shipped directly to foreign markets, but had first to be un- 
loaded and landed in England, whence after the payment of slight 
duties it could be exported to the Continent. This roundabout route 
increased the cost of getting the sugar to market. Other financial 
disadvantages were the payment of the four and a half per cent, 
export duty in Barbadoes and the Leeward Islands, and the heavy 
and increasing customs duties in England, protests against which 
began to be heard as early as 1671, when Parliament proposed to 
lay an additional duty on sugar. 40 Similarly, the planters were 
aggrieved at the efforts of the sugar refiners in England to prevent 
them from refining sugar in the islands, an outcropping of the mer- 
cantilist doctrine against manufacturing in the colonies, and as true 
of France as it was true of England. 41 They complained, further- 
more, of the curtailing of the market by the act of 1670, which 
forbade direct exportation to Ireland, 42 and they declared that while 
the French colonies were growing in wealth and prosperity, the 
British colonies were declining, suffering from an impoverishment 
of their soil, 43 from a high and increasing cost of living, and from 

3D Decrees of June, 1698, and April, 1717, regulating the commerce of the 
French colonies, prohibited direct trade with other colonies ; but these decrees 
were in part rescinded by those of January and October, 1726, permitting the ex- 
porting of produce from the French islands to Spain. The decrees of 1726 were 
frequently quoted in full by English writers and were even read in the House 
of Commons. 

40 Petitions of the merchants and sugar refiners induced the House of Lords 
to amend the bill, and thus gave rise to an interesting constitutional crisis. Col. 
St. P., Col., 1669— 1674, pp. 213—214. 

"This attempt of the sugar refiners was similar to the efforts made at a 
later time to restrict the wool, hat, and iron industries in the continental colonies. 
Cal. St. P., Col., 1669-1674, §§ 519, 520. See the Report of the American Historical 
Association, 1892, pp. 36-44. We are told that all sugar for table use in Antigua 
in 1774 was imported from England at a high price. Probably much the same 
condition prevailed in all the West India Islands belonging to Great Britain. 
Brit. Mus., Egerton 2423, pp. 122-123. There is an interesting protest against 
sugar refining in the West Indies in P. R. O., Treasury i, bundle 338. 

* 2 By act of 1663 Ireland was forbidden to send any of her exports, except 
servants, horses, victuals, and salt for the New England and Newfoundland fish- 
eries, to any of the colonies. By that of 1670, she was forbidden to receive any 
of the enumerated commodities by direct export from the colonies. For the 
effect of these laws upon Ireland see Hutchinson, The Commercial Restraints of 
Ireland Considered (1779), PP. 181-183. 

43 " Our old islands, by being less mountainous, and almost entirely cleared 
of wood, are become extremely dry and unseasonable; at the same time that the 
lands in them, by long and constant planting, have so far lost the spring and 

AM HIST. REV., VOL. XX. — 36. 



552 C. M. Andrews 

the want of an adequate circulating medium, which involved them 
in a constant fear of losing what specie they had. The remedies 
sought were a complete drawback on all re-exportation, repeal of 
the act of 1672, reduction of duties, direct trade with Ireland, and 
the privilege of free export to all points south of Cape Finisterre. 
In addition, some of the complainants demanded a reform of the 
business methods of the Custom House in London. 44 But in the 
eyes of the British merchant the situation became much more serious 
when it was discovered that the French were increasing their trade 
with Africa, were drawing their beef, lumber, and provision supply 
from Ireland and the British colonies on the American continent, 

spirit of vegetation, as to stand in need of more rains than they had before. 
But this reflexion has never been attended to by our planters, who attribute 
solely to the less frequency of seasonable weather, that deficiency in their crops, 
which is in a great measure owing to the impoverishment of the soil." Con- 
siderations which may tend to promote the Settlement of our new West-India 
Colonies (1764), p. 37. This was not true of Jamaica, where it was computed in 
1750 that out of 4,000,000 acres only 430,800 were cleared, and that in conse- 
quence the island was capable of great future development. " An Inquiry ", etc., 
Brit. Mus., Add. MSS. 30163. When the Ceded Islands were taken over in 1763 
provision was made that part of the land should always be wooded to prevent 
the denudation that had injured the other islands. Acts of the Privy Council, 
Colonial, IV. 583. 

** A complete enumeration and examination of all the disadvantages pre- 
sented by the writers of the period is manifestly impossible here. Dr. F. W. 
Pitman will soon publish his study of the economic development of the British 
West Indies during the colonial period, which is based on a thorough search of 
all the extant manuscript material. The pamphlet and manuscript literature is 
very extensive, the assertions made are often exaggerated and frequently contra- 
dictory, and the subjects involved, such as those relating to impoverishment, the 
effects of British legislation, and the want of a circulating medium, are com- 
plicated and often obscure. The best-known pamphlets are as follows : Gee, 
The Trade and Navigation of Great Britain Considered (1729) ; The Importance 
of the Sugar Plantations (1731) ; and A Short Answer to the same (1731) ; 
The Present State of the British Sugar Colonies (1731) ; Ashley, The Sugar 
Trade with the Incumbrances thereon, laid open (1734) ; The National Merchant 
('736) ; Stubb, Importance of the British Plantations in America (1731) ; Danger 
of Losing the Trade of the Sugar Colonies; The Case of His Majesty's Sugar 
Colonies (1732) ; The British Merchant (3 vols.) ; The State of the Sugar Trade 
(*747) ; Postlethwayt, A Short State of the Progress of the French Trade and 
Navigation (1756) ; Coad, A Letter to the Honorable the Lords Commissioners 
of Trade and Plantations (1747) ; Tucker, A Brief Essay of the Advantages and 
Disadvantages which respectively attend France and Great Britain with regard 
to Trade (1749) ; Postlethwayt, Great Britain's True System (1757). One of the 
best sources of information regarding conditions in Barbadoes is Caribbeana 
(1741, two vols.), covering the period from 1731 to 1740. For Jamaica, there is 
a valuable manuscript in the British Museum entitled, " An Inquiry into the Causes 
of the Present Scarcity of Money and the Bad Consequence of It to This Island, 
with some Proposals for a Remedy, wherein the Scheme of a Public Bank is of- 
fered " (1750). Many of the representations of the Board of Trade are of the 
highest importance, and a list of them is printed in the Report of the American 
Historical Association for 1913. 



Anglo-French Commercial Rivalry, iyoo-iy^o 553 

and in their exporting of tropical products were actually, though 
indirectly, invading the British market itself. 

To assure the continued prosperity of their tropical colonies, the 
most highly valued of all their colonial possessions, both England 
and France were in need of two supplemental areas of supply. 
These were, first, a territory from which an ample and uninterrupted 
store of slaves could be obtained for the cane pieces, the rice fields, 
and the tobacco plantations of the southern and West Indian 
colonies, and, second, a fertile agricultural area in the temperate 
zone, which would provide a sufficient quantity of food and other 
necessary staples such as semi-tropical and tropical colonies de- 
manded but could not furnish for themselves or obtain from the 
mother-country. The first of these was Africa, 45 which as the only 
source of negroes was the object of intense rivalry among all the 
maritime powers possessed of tropical and semi-tropical colonies. 
But, consisting as it did of a long strip of coast, upon which at that 
time no European state laid claim to property in land, each confin- 
ing itself to rented ground suitable for factories and houses, it 
presented to the powers no opportunity for mutually exclusive con- 
trol. Except as far as grants of monopoly led to acts of aggression 
and retaliation, the African rivalry took the form of a trade struggle. 
Quite otherwise was it with the second supplemental factor. France 
controlled Canada and the Mississippi, while England had her 
Bread Colonies from New England to Pennsylvania, which were 
valued by the mercantilist only because they supplied the Sugar 
Colonies with staples that England herself would be obliged to 
send when she could, were there no other source from which to 
obtain them. 46 

45 Wood speaks of " the Trade to Africa, so very Advantagious to Great 
Britain, by conducing so much to the Support of our Tobacco Colonies, and Sugar 
Plantations", Survey of Trade, p. 189; and Dinwiddle, collector of customs at 
Bermuda, . says the same, " on the supply of negroes from this [the African] 
coast, our sugar, tobacco and other plantations depend ", C. O., 323 : 9, M 24. 

46 This characteristic attitude of the British merchants toward the northern 
colonies is well expressed in Wood, Survey of Trade (1718). "Without our 
Southern Plantations, our Northern Colonies can be of no real Advantage to us ; 
since what they are at present, must cease on the Decay or Loss of the Sugar 
Islands, from whence their Value to Great Britain chiefly arises, and for want of 
which they would be otherwise prejudicial Colonies to their Mother Country " 
(p. 149). New England merchants, such as Gee and Banister, felt called upon 
constantly to defend New England and the northern colonies generally, before 
the Board of Trade, and to show the value of these colonies to England. Jeremiah 
Dummer, Connecticut's agent in England (1710-1730), presented a somewhat 
unusual view in his memorial of October 13, 1713, to the Board of Trade. 
" The fishery of New England ", he says, " is of more concern because some 
years the Newfoundland fishery almost wholly fails, and by our last advice from 
thence there has been a great dearth and scarcity of fish there this season [1713]. 



554 CM. Andrews 

Before the French obtained a footing on the African coast, the 
Portuguese, Dutch, and English had competed for the right to 
control the trade of the territory, England having seized Cape Coast 
Castle from Holland during the first Dutch war. With the acquisi- 
tion of forts on the island of Goree and at Arguin and trading posts 
on the Senegal, the French began to extend their trading influence 
and a fourfold rivalry ensued, with the French to the north and the 
others in more immediate propinquity along the Guinea Coast and 
toward the Congo. Until 1697 the Royal African Company re- 
tained its monopoly, but in that year the trade was thrown open, 
and with the entrance upon the scene of private traders, among 
whom were many colonials, notably Rhode Islanders, the competi- 
tion increased. The French strengthened their hold upon the 
Gambia trade, 47 while the Dutch dominated the Guinea Coast. So 
badly did the company conduct its business that it soon became 
unable to maintain its forts and garrisons, and in 1730 applied to 
Parliament for aid. Continued mismanagement and depression led 
to its dissolution in 1747 and to the establishment of a new corpora- 
tion, the Company of Merchants trading to Africa, in 1750. 48 As 
the company's trade grew worse, the French extended their activi- 

And without doubt the more fishery ground we have the greater our treasure is. 
As to the scale-fish and mackerel, I believe your Lordships will allow that to be 
of equal importance with the cod, because the Sugar Islands can't subsist without 
it. Their plantations depend wholly on their negroes, who are supported with 
this fish ; whereas if the planters should for want of this fish feed their negroes 
with Irish beef, the charge of a plantation would consume the value of it." C. O., 
5: 866, V 10. 

Professor Callender, who very kindly read the manuscript of this paper in its 
final form, makes the following comment upon my estimate of the value of the 
northern British colonies in the British commercial system. " It does not seem 
to me that you state the case against them as strongly as the opinions expressed 
by the trade writers, at least of later times, would warrant. Postlethwayt, as I 
remember, did not scruple to hold that the northern colonies were a positive 
detriment to Great Britain. They actually rivalled her in the fisheries, reducing 
her share in them, and so prevented her sea-power from being what it would 
have been without them. Arthur Young held this position very strongly, in 
pointing out that the great development of shipping and the great number of 
seamen in them was not only no advantage to the mother-country but a positive 
disadvantage. The author of American Husbandry held too that their supplying 
the West Indies with provisions also injured her, since thereby she lost the only 
permanent regular market for flour and beef in the world, the corn trade of 
Europe being notoriously irregular, as it was the result of shortage of crops in 
different countries." What Professor Callender says of the later writers is in a 
measure true of earlier writers also. 

47 Acts of the Privy Council, Colonial, vol. VI., §271. 

« In a memorial sent from Antigua in 1752 to the Board of Trade, the peti- 
tioners asserted that " by the failure of the African Company our rivals now 
have the trade ". Oliver, History of Antigua, I. cix. For the business side of 
the trade with Africa, see W. R. Scott, Joint Stock Companies, II. 3-35. 



Anglo-French Commercial Rivalry, ij 00-1750 555 

ties southward, establishing posts at Gambia, Accra, and Whydah 
before 1735, 49 and trafficking within what the British claimed were 
their rights and privileges, under the very walls of the British forts 
and factories. They encroached on the company's field of slave 
supply and disputed with it and the private traders the traffic in 
gum, which they used in their hat and silk manufactures, and in 
gold, ivory, beeswax, and dye-woods, to the exclusion of British 
ships. In 1750 Postlethwayt could complain that the French had 
been making unjustifiable attempts for many years to raise their 
trade and navigation in that part of the world on the ruins of 
the British African trade and to monopolize that branch of com- 
merce, upon which depended the prosperity and well-being of all 
the British colonies in America. 50 

A more flagrant insult in the eyes of British mercantilists was 
the growth of a lucrative trade between the British colonies of the 
temperate zone and the French West Indies, whereby the French 
islands were supplied with the provisions, lumber, and live stock 
which they needed for the maintenance of their slave labor and the 
promotion of their sugar trade. Such intercourse was contrary to 
the principles on which the British commercial system was founded, 
in that it involved the sending of French sugars to the northern 
British colonies and the invasion by France of the British home 
market. France was weak in having no satisfactory beef and pro- 
vision colonies of her own. Colbert sought to supply beef from 
France in order to prevent export from Ireland, and he made 
strenuous efforts to build up Canada as a provision and lumber 
supplying colony. But in both respects he failed. French beef 
was never sufficient in amount, and Canada never became an agri- 
cultural colony during the French regime, remaining a land of furs 
and romance to the end." The cities of France endeavored to meet 

*» Atkins, A Voyage to Guinea, pp. 107, 172. In 1730 Dinwiddie, collector 
of customs at Bermuda, wrote to the Board of Trade, "There is not anything 
gives the French and Dutch so great an opportunity to rival us in our trade with 
the Spanish dominions in the West Indies, as the encroachments they are daily 
making on our settlements on the coast of Africa, whereby the Company, as well 
as every private trader, are prevented the advantage of that trade as formerly." 
C. O., 323 : 9, M 24. In 1736 a Rhode Island sea-captain wrote from the English 
fort of Anamaboe on the Guinea Coast, " never was so much Rum on the Coast 
at one time before, Nor the like of the french shipers — never seen before for 
no. for the hole Coast is full of them ", Commerce of Rhode Island, Mass. 
Hist. Soc. Coll., seventh series, IX. 46. 

so A Short State of the Progress of the French Trade and Navigation (1750), 
pp. 85-86. 

51 Mims, Colbert's West India Policy, pp. 318-325. The Northern Colonies 
in their defense said that if they were driven out of their trade to the French 
West Indies, the latter would turn elsewhere. " They have Cape Breton, Canada, 



556 C. M. Andrews 

the bread and provision demand as far as they were able : Bordeaux 
and La Rochelle sent wine, brandy, staves, headings, and hoops ; but 
Rouen seldom furnished provisions, supplying rather notions and 
assorted commodities, while Marseilles and Toulon confined them- 
selves largely to oil, dried fruit, wines, and various light stuffs. 

While thus France was failing to meet the demands of her West 
Indian colonies on the export side, she proved equally unsatisfactory 
in meeting their demands on the import side. As the French 
colonies produced sugar in larger and larger quantities, they ac- 
cumulated an increasing amount of the by-products of sugar — 
molasses and rum. But neither of these by-products found exten- 
sive sale in France. Molasses was not palatable to the French taste, 
and the French people would not use it as food, so that the French 
island planters were compelled to give it to their horses or pigs or to 
throw it away, while rum was not wanted, because it was too raw a 
liquor for drinking purposes, and was discouraged because it com- 
peted when used with wines and brandies, which ranked high among 
French staples. Thus an important source of profit was unavail- 
able as far as the French colonial planters were concerned. There- 
fore, in respect of the unity and co-ordination of the French 
colonial world, an anomalous condition existed, for which a remedy 
must be found. The French colonies had to have an adequate 
supply of slaves, a sufficient store of lumber, horses, and provisions, 
and a market for all their staples, sugar, molasses, and rum, if their 
success was to be assured. 

Charles M. Andrews. 

(To be continued.) 
and also the Bay of Apalachy, and Mississippi, which the French Government 
would be glad to improve ". Case of the Northern Colonies. But their opponents 
denied that any of these regions could be used as a source of supply. Observa- 
tions, pp. 15, 28.